Bushnell Ion Elite Golf GPS Watch Review

Joel Tadman takes the Bushnell Ion Elite GPS watch on the course over multiple rounds to discover what the user experience is truly like

Bushnell Ion Elite Golf GPS Watch Review
(Image credit: Future)
Golf Monthly Verdict

This is an incredibly fun and useful watch to wear when playing golf. The slope-adjusted distances and moveable pin make it almost as accurate as a laser rangefinder with the added bonus of hole maps, which account for doglegs and blind shots, as well as hazards and the ability to track your score. It’s as close to the perfect golf watch as we’ve tested in recent years.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Wide variety of features and display modes

  • +

    Slope feature and moveable pin enhance accuracy

  • +

    Excellent value for money

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Charging connection could be better

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Bushnell Ion Elite Golf GPS Watch Review

Bushnell is well known for its golf rangefinders but the new Ion Elite GPS watch places it among the major players when it comes to golf watches. Bushnell launched the Ion Edge last year - a functional yet somewhat basic model, which is in stark contrast to the cutting-edge Ion Elite with its color touch screen and plethora of features available to the gadget-loving golfer.

VIDEO: See our run through of the latest golf watches on the market

First impressions are good with the strap being comfortable and tacky to hold it in position. This is arguably one of the best looking watches, especially with the sporty white strap. The watch itself is relatively compact - there are thinner ones out there like the Shot Scope X5 or Garmin Approach S42 - but it certainly doesn't interfere with your swing in any way through size.

What I like about the Ion Elite is how simple it is to navigate. There is only one button on the side, which serves as a back and on/off button, a concept that is simple to grasp. Everything else is accessed by the touch screen, which is bright, clear, detailed and responsive. It lags a little when you’re wearing a golf glove but without it, the experience is very similar to that of a modern-day smart phone.

Bushnell Ion Elite Golf GPS Watch hole view

(Image credit: Future)

Once your course has been located, the home screen displays front, middle and back distances as well as the hole number and par. Then there are icons in the four corners that you press to access other display modes and functions - scoring, hole maps, green view and hazards/lay ups. 

The hole maps are very useful, providing a bird's eye view of the hole. You can zoom in on it, move the pointer and add driving or approach shot arcs at different distances tailored to your game. On the green screen, you’re able to quickly reposition the flag so the middle distance becomes more accurate and they’re also based on your line of play. The adaptive technology sees this watch feature in our 2023 Editor's Choice.

Bushnell Ion Elite Golf GPS Watch green view

(Image credit: Future)

The hazard screen will list the distance to upcoming hazards as well as the distance you need to hit the ball to reach certain lay up yardages - 100, 125 and 150 yards - which I found especially useful on par fives that were out of reach in two.

Then there’s the scoring screen, which will not only log your score for each hole but also how many putts you took and whether you hit or missed the fairway, and in which direction. During your round, the home screen will display your current score to par so you can keep track. All the stats are then collated on a summary screen after your round, providing an overarching if somewhat basic assessment of your play.

Bushnell Ion Elite Golf GPS Watch stats screen

(Image credit: Future)

Where this watch sets itself apart is the Slope functionality, which is very rare even among the best golf watches and is accessed via the golf settings. You can choose to toggle the Slope feature on/off or if you want to make sure your Ion Elite is completely legal for competition play, you can opt for the tournament mode. Once you enable these settings, a coloured ring will appear around the outside of the home screen display as a reminder. If it’s blue, that means the watch is displaying slope compensated distances, and if it’s orange it isn’t and required further calibration by taking it to a tee box or green. A white ring indicates tournament mode has been switched on.

In the white strap version we tested, the styling of the Ion Elite is such that you could easily wear it off the course as a sports watch (yes, it tells the time too) but primarily this is a golf-specific wearable and a very good one at that. It is quick to charge although the connection system is a little flimsy - the magnets are weak and so it easily becomes disconnected if you accidentally knock it.

Bushnell Ion Elite Golf GPS Watch testing

(Image credit: Future)

Make no mistake, Bushnell has absolutely nailed it with the Ion Elite and it's a million times better than the somewhat rudimentary Ion Edge watch. Coming in at £199 it easily becomes one of the very best value golf watches when you consider all the features it offers, not to mention access to the Bushnell Golf app for hole flyovers and more in-depth performance analysis capabilities, which undoubtedly adds value. 

Joel Tadman
Technical Editor

Joel has worked in the golf industry for over 12 years covering both instruction and more recently equipment. He now oversees all product content here at Golf Monthly, managing a team of talented and passionate writers and presenters in delivering the most thorough and accurate reviews, buying advice, comparisons and deals to help the reader find exactly what they are looking for. So whether it's the latest driver, irons, putter or laser rangefinder, Joel has his finger on the pulse keeping up to date with the latest releases in golf. He is also responsible for all content on irons and golf tech, including distance measuring devices and launch monitors.

One of his career highlights came when covering the 2012 Masters he got to play the sacred Augusta National course on the Monday after the tournament concluded, shooting a respectable 86 with just one par and four birdies. To date, his best ever round of golf is a 5-under 67 back in 2011. He currently plays his golf at Burghley Park Golf Club in Stamford, Lincs, with a handicap index of 3.2.

Joel's current What's In The Bag? 

Driver: Titleist TSR3, 9° 

Fairway wood: Titleist TSR3, 15° 

Hybrid: Titleist TSi2, 18° 

Irons: Ping i230 4-UW

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM8, 54°. Titleist Vokey SM9 60° lob wedge, K Grind

Putter: Evnroll ER2V 

Ball: 2023 Titleist Pro V1x